‘I’m not sitting on my a**’: In retirement, Nick Faldo is only getting started
ORLANDO, Fla. — It’s morning at the PNC Championship, and Nick Faldo has just stepped into the past.
It’s been close to two decades since he stopped playing regularly as a touring pro, but you’d never know it from watching his warmup at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club. His swing is slower now — like if you played his old move at 75 percent speed — but the result looks familiar. Next to his son, Matt, Faldo sends ball after ball into the ether on a towering arc.
The elder Faldo reaches the third tee box before his momentum is halted. Stopping him is a young boy, maybe eight years old, with a pair of old Masters badges.
“Mr. Faldo! Will you sign these?”
“I will,” he says playfully, quickly scribbling on the cardboard. “But only if you can tell me why I’m signing them.”
The boy looks up quizzically.
“Because I won it,” Faldo finally relents. “I won the Masters.”
He hands the signed badges back to the boy.
“…but that was a long time ago.”
A lifetime ago. The glory days — those three Masters triumphs (in ’89, ’90 and ’96) — are a long way off for Nick Faldo. Golf fans born since then know Sir Nick only through his voice. That raspy British accent has been one of the distinctive sounds of CBS’s golf coverage for the better part of a generation.
Faldo was lead analyst of Golf on CBS for 16 years, riding the swivel-chair closest to Jim Nantz from 2006 until this past summer. But now that’s over, too. As of August, Faldo’s television career is no more. For the second time in his life, he’s retired.
“I’m fed up talking golf,” he tells me with a smirk at the PNC. “TV is a great life, but I’ve been on the road since I was 18.”
Faldo, now 65, was the rare figure to reach fixture status for two networks in those monstrous, steel-and-plastic TV towers. His crossover duties for both CBS and Golf Channel were as much a reflection of his dedication as a teammate as they were of his abilities. As a broadcaster, he was a consummate professional, who carried out his work with seriousness, even if his best moments were measured in laughter.
At his finest, Faldo was a bonafide golf legend, the kind of analyst whose charm zapped through the TV screen like a static shock. He was funny, quick-witted, dry. Undeniably British.
As time wore on, though, that 18th tower turned into a prison. Faldo’s words became magnified. His mistakes were amplified, winding up all over the internet. His powers — those of a vastly experienced, gifted golf orator — were minimized. Rather than expand his personality for the camera, Faldo shrunk inward, shunting his analysis and himself. He was exhausted by the work schedule, the time commitment and what he saw as a loss of agency in his own life.
“There was a great line on TikTok,” he said. “There’s two rats in a cage. One can jump on the wheel whenever he wants and go as fast as he likes to go, but the other rat has to go on the wheel when the first rat comes off.”
“You think you don’t have a choice of the race you’re in. If you’re in the rat race, you don’t,” he says. “But if you’re controlling the speed of the race, you do.”
“It kind of resonated with me, you know? I want to live at my own pace.”
In January, Faldo called a meeting at Pebble Beach with CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus and informed him of his decision.
“I was surprised and a little sad about it, to be honest with you,” McManus said. “Nick’s been a powerful force for CBS Sports for 16 years. But I respected his decision.”
Faldo announced his retirement officially on June 21. His goodbye tour lasted all of six weeks and featured little fanfare. When the Wyndham Championship blew through in early August, he bid the network a tearful goodbye, exhaled and entered the great unknown.
Four months later, Faldo resurfaced at the PNC Championship brimming with excitement. Life at his own pace, it turns out, has not proved any slower.
“I’m not sitting on my ass, no,” he says with a chuckle. “Well, some days I am, which is nice. But most days, we’ve got other bits going on.”
Most of those “bits” happen in Bozeman, Mont., where Faldo and his wife Lindsay have recently taken up residence — the product of a “Yellowstone” binge during the earliest stages of the pandemic. (After his retirement, Faldo earned an audience for a round of golf with John Dutton himself, playing 18 holes in Bozeman with Kevin Costner and singer-songwriter Huey Lewis.)
The couple’s crown jewel retirement project is “Faldo Farm,” a farmhouse and ranch on 125 acres of riverfront property. Construction has been delayed by a few months, Faldo said, on account of permit problems, but is expected to begin again in earnest next spring. For now, the couple’s days are spent between their dogs, Faldo’s favorite fly-fishing holes, and whichever hobby fits the flavor of the week.
“I’ve been making some fancy things, linguinis, all sorts of things,” he says. “I figure I’ve got the time. I want to learn how to cook. I want to be good enough to make seven meals and seven cocktails. That’s my mission.”
It might be a minute before Nick Faldo has seven straight days at home again, though. Immediately after leaving CBS in August, Faldo found himself on a three-week trip through southeast Asia scouting land sites for his course-design business, which he says figures to take up a chunk of his time moving forward. After Asia, he went back to Scotland for his Black Bull Whisky label. Then it was off to Florida for the PNC.
Obligations to Faldo’s sponsors and charitable efforts also haven’t stopped in retirement. On the morning we spoke at the PNC Championship, Faldo wore a shirt emblazoned with the logo for Faldo Series, a junior golf tour he helped found a quarter-century ago.
If all else fails, at least there’s TikTok, where Faldo has quickly amassed 23,000 followers with a presence that dabbles in golf instruction, archival footage and, yes, memes.
“Yeah, I texted [Jim] Nantz the other day. There was a TikTok about how to gauge your toast,” Faldo says, referencing Nantz’s proclivity to carry a photo of burnt toast to expedite his breakfast order. “So I sent it to him and said, ‘what toast are you ordering?'”
He smiles as he tells the story, and then again as he dutifully lists his former coworkers’ current whereabouts. He’s either seen or has plans to see most of his old boothmates in the coming months. They are still some of his best friends, after all, and the decision to leave them was the hardest part of choosing to retire. Still, four months into his new life, Faldo harbors no second thoughts.
“I think it was time to do something else,” he says. “I want to do other things.”
It’s not immediately clear what more Faldo needs. He has plenty of money, fulfilling hobbies and a deep portfolio of business ventures. But then he hits his tee shot on the 4th hole of Thursday morning’s pro-am at the PNC Championship.
As he drives out into the fairway, Faldo strikes up a conversation with one of his playing partners — a short, leathery man in his 60s. The man, who claims to work in tech sales, tells Faldo he’s opening a distillery in New Orleans in the new year, with eventual plans to bottle his own whiskey.
Faldo’s eyes perk up. After a morning of wall-to-wall golf talk, someone has finally dared to change the subject.
“Now is that right?” Faldo says to the man.
The two stop in the fairway and talk for a short while. Soon, they’ve been chatting for long enough that they’ve fallen behind. Faldo realizes this and becomes distracted. The conversation dwindles as he slowly begins pulling the cart forward, catching up to the pace set by his playing partners.
Bu then he stops himself, steps out of his cart and reaches into his golf bag, pulling out a business card.
“That’s my personal phone line,” he tells his playing partner. “Take a photo of it.”
The man snaps a photo and stammers out a thank you. Sir Nick flashes him a smirk.
“I’m retired now, you know,” he says. “Call me whenever you’d like.”